On this date 50 years ago, Laurel’s Rod Gilbreath made his major league debut for the Atlanta Braves at age 19. Playing third base at Fulton County Stadium, in a lineup that included Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and Ralph Garr, Gilbreath went 0-for-3 against Montreal. Drafted in the third round in 1970 out of Laurel’s Watkins High, Gilbreath zipped through the minors, batting .277 with 10 homers and 45 stolen bases at Double-A Savannah in ’72 before his call-up. He played seven big league years, all with the Braves, batting .248 with 14 homers, 125 RBIs and 25 steals in 500 games. Sign of the times: In 1976, he led the National League with 20 sacrifice bunts. He went on to be a Braves scout. … One hundred years ago, Starkville native Cool Papa Bell broke in at age 19 with the St. Louis Stars of the Negro National League. (The exact date of Bell’s debut isn’t known.) He was a lefty pitcher initially, earning his nickname in 1922 for his composure on the mound. He won 20 games over three seasons with the Stars but an arm injury turned him into a full-time outfielder. Blessed with amazing speed, he batted .325 with 285 steals (unofficially, he had many, many more) over a 21-year career, playing for legendary championship teams in St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Homestead, Pa. Bell made the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.
For what it’s worth — probably not much — 247sports.com predicts that Ole Miss will last just three games in the College World Series, beating Auburn, then losing to Arkansas and Stanford. Saturday’s opener against Auburn does loom large. The teams’ mid-March meeting doesn’t provide much of a gauge. The Rebels won 13-6 and 15-2 (in the rubber game) and lost 19-5. Neither of UM’s emergent aces — Dylan DeLucia and Hunter Elliott — started in that series, though both pitched well in relief in the wins. The Rebels’ pitching depth beyond those two and closer Brandon Johnson, which held up nicely in the regional and Super Regional, will be tested in Omaha. … Up in the Cape Cod League, Kellum Clark is off to a hot start for Wareham. The Mississippi State sophomore from Brandon went 3-for-5 with three doubles and three RBIs in a win on Thursday and is 4-for-10 in three games in the elite summer league. … The slumping Mississippi Braves could use some spark, and there’s a player at High-Class A Rome bidding for a promotion to the Double-A club. Shortstop Vaughn Grissom, a top 10 prospect in Atlanta’s system, is batting .288 with eight homers, 39 RBIs and 12 steals for the R-Braves. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Grissom hit two grand slams in a 4-for-7 effort on Thursday. … MSU alum Jordan Westburg is batting .414 with three homers and nine RBIs in his first seven games for Triple-A Norfolk in Baltimore’s system. Wonder if the awful Orioles might give him a look later this summer? … Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson went 1-for-3 with a homer for Triple-A Memphis on Thursday in his first rehab assignment for St. Louis. Dickerson was batting .194 for the Cardinals when he injured a hamstring on June 4. … East Central CC product Tim Anderson is 4-for-11 in three games for Triple-A Charlotte on his rehab assignment. Anderson, who went down with a groin injury on May 30, was batting .356 in 40 games for the Chicago White Sox. … Hunter Renfroe is known for his power bat and cannon arm — not his wheels. The ex-State standout, playing for Milwaukee, tried to score from first base on a hit into the right-field corner against the New York Mets on Thursday. Didn’t work out. He was cut down for the second out in the ninth inning of the Brewers’ 5-4 loss at CitiField.